This halloween five of my friends, my brother Paul (my best-man) and myself set out from Edinburgh to Milan for my stag do. The primary objective was to enjoy ourselves and importantly for me to catch my first ever live Serie A game.
I grew up watching Italian calcio, I’d watch Channel Four’s Football Italia show religiously every weekend.
The San Siro was always a stadium that attracted my interest. It looked magnificent on the telly and when I visited Milan previously, a few summers ago, I walked around it and was stunned by it’s visual grandeur.
So when we were discussing possible stag destinations Milan topped my list. The good thing about Milan is that you get a greater chance of seeing a game as both AC Milan and Inter Milan call that stadium their home.
Thankfully the last weekend in October had thrown up a great fixture, with Inter entertaining Roma. A win for Inter would see them leapfrog their opponents into top spot in the Italian league table.
But before the football, we had to get to the San Siro first and that proved to be no mean feat.
Firstly our Easyjet flight was delayed by twenty minutes but we should still reach Milan’s Malpensa airport and be on a bus by 6pm local time. So that would give us two hours and forty-five minutes to drop off our bags and get to the stadium with our basic printed tickets. I only mention the tickets because I love old fashioned tickets that you keep in a shoe box.
As we arrived at passport control my cousin Douglas looked worried, he then stated ‘Oh no I’ve left my passport in my bag and they took it to the hold!‘. We reassured him that all he could do was explain to passport security what had happened and they’d deal with it. As he got closer to the desk Douglas said about the guard ‘He doesn’t look happy!‘.
I wondered how much time this would add to our journey and whether or not they’d let Douglas out without an interview. Thankfully this was Italy and not the States. Security told him to stand aside while they checked everyone else’s passport. The rest of us went round to baggage reclaim as a few of the other boys had also been told to put their bags into the hold.
Within ten minutes Douglas had rejoined the party, got his bag and showed off his passport to the now grinning security officer.
We were all in a jovial mood as we made fun of Dougie and headed to the bus stop.
A bus was sitting there ready to depart. We handed over our money and stuck our bags in the compartment underneath, thinking that it would be only fifty minutes before we hit Milan city centre.
How wrong could we be?
As we approached the busy Milan city centre streets after leaving the motorway, we could see that the traffic was building up.
Then the bus driver (It may have been his first day or he may have had a few vinos) took a left. All the passengers noticed that this was a very narrow one way street. But who questions a bus driver? Well everyone just moments later.
As the bus neared the end of the road, we signalled to turn right. Again it looked tight, but the Italian driver thought it was Ok. It really wasn’t.
Inside the next minute the bus totally crushed the drivers side of a small Fiat car that was excellently parked on the narrow street. Horns erupted and cars going in all directions came to a stand still.
We then waited, for what seemed like an eternity, as all the drivers and passers-by had a very vocal chat about the incident and what to do next. I don’t think I’ve seen quite as many hand gestures as I saw at that moment. Thankfully the driver who’s Fiat had been near destroyed didn’t return to assess the damage nor did our driver leave a note apologising for the incident.
We seemed absolutely stuck. We were at the end of a long one way street and couldn’t make the turn that our bus driver desperately wanted to make. We could’t leave the bus as our bags were in the wee hold underneath and the passing traffic weren’t going to stop for us that’s for sure.
Then suddenly a marvellous small woman passenger decided she’d seen enough. She instructed the bus driver to reverse down the one way road and she would guide him.
She got out and then went to the back of the bus, and like Moses and the red sea, the traffic seemed to make way just for us as the bus slowly reversed down this now all too familiar narrow street as an angel told cars to stay out of our way.
There was a hairy moment when the police sped up behind our reversing bus but instead of stopping us they just mounted the pavement to pass us!
The lady managed to get us all the way up the street and back in the right direction. She returned to the bus and received a deserved round of applause.
What a star!
We finally made the bus station at 8pm local time. We had forty-five minutes to reach the San Siro.
We decided to split up. My brother, Douglas and Scott would drop off all the bags at the hotel and then head for the stadium. They got a taxi at the bus rank, from what looked like a local guy just out to make extra cash for the night. We really feared we’d never see them again!
The rest of us (Cheesy, Froggy, Hodge and myself) went to the Metro station. After sussing out the system we boarded the right train and ended up outside the ground with about fifteen minutes to spare.
Froggy decided to get himself a scarf and spent a good five minutes picking one. In then end he went for a yellow and blue number. It was only after purchasing it did he realise he’d actually picked up a child’s size… The plonker.
Our seats were in the heavens and we finally climbed all the stairs and entered the arena. It was a huge majestic sight and one I’d dreamed of for so long.
Then as we kicked out four dodgy looking characters who obviously liked the look of our seats more than their own, we noticed that the other three had actually beaten us to the stadium. Turns out their taxi/random driver knew every short-cut imaginable.
The crowd was fierce and the Inter ultras behind the goal put on a great display. To be fair the travelling Roma fans weren’t quiet either.
The game itself was enjoyable. Roma had a fluid looking attack and created chances. Edin Dzeko missed a guilt edged sitter in the first half. While Inter Milan goalie Samir Handanovic produced three world class saves, one after the other, to keep a clean sheet.
Inter grew more into the game as it went by.
Then after thirty-one minutes we got a goal and from a very unlikely source. Solid defensive minded Chilean Gary Medel scored his first ever Inter goal after his long shot skipped past Roma’s Wojciech Szczesny.
The stadium erupted and the home fans were so pleased to see Medel chuffed to bits with his goal.
It was like a fairytale Serie A match for me. I might be mad, but I adore the fact that my first Italian domestic match finished in a stereotypical 1-0 result.
One of the biggest differences I noticed between this game/atmosphere than one you’d expect from a British game, is the fact that the supporters are so appreciative of the defensive duties carried out by their team. They applaud every single tackle and interception. They celebrated Handanovic’s three save combo as if he had scored a winner. It was amazing!
After the game finished and Inter were declared the winners, we set off in search of some dinner at around half ten at night.
First off we had to negotiate the Metro again, where we lost Hodge after he decided to embark on a heavily congested carriage that no one else fancied. Thankfully we all met up at the right station.
Finally we found a ‘Mozzarella Bar’ (Yeah who knew?). And ordered pizzas. A few of us then went out for drinks and as typical Glaswegians we found a place that sold Tennents Super!
In our only full day in Milan we all did they tourist stuff like visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Duomo.
We managed to find time to stop at a cafe and pretend we were James Richardson with our orders of coffees and ice creams. Obviously we were constantly fuelled with some beers.
I managed to purchase a Bologna strip. I’ve since been asked ‘Why Bologna?’ (A lot). Well I like Bologna and it’s a top that is so hard to get in the UK.
In the last evening I really wanted to visit a restaurant called ‘Botinero‘ as it received good reviews and is owned by Inter legends Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. This stag-do had a big theme!
As you walk in you are almost blinded by the array of football memorabilia that dawns the reception area. Any great footballer of my generation seemed to have had signed boots on the wall.
Most of the lads ordered steaks and all of them said they were fantastic.
I ordered the Argentine veal and the server announced that this was ‘Il Capitano’s’ favourite dish on the menu’. I can state it was the best veal I’ve ever eaten.
The item on the menu that cause most eyebrows to be raised was the ‘erotic potatoes’ which turned out to be fancy crisps.
I have to say a huge thank you to all the boys for coming. I had always wanted to do my stag in Italy and take in a Serie A match and I wasn’t disappointed. It was simply fantastic.
A a lot of credit has to go to Paul as he did a superb job organising it all and for keeping calm when all seemed lost. The fact he can speak Italian was a huge bonus!